Motorola to build smartphone at Alliance, hire 2,000 workers

Posted Thursday, May. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Motorola Mobility will manufacture its long-rumored new smartphone Moto X at an Alliance plant in far north Fort Worth, where it is expected to employ 2,000 workers by late summer when the first phones roll off the assembly line.

Dennis Woodside, Motorola Mobility’s CEO, made the announcement Wednesday evening at the D: All Things Digital conference in California. Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, said it will be the first smartphone assembled in the U.S.

“This means a lot to us, because we are an American-made company getting back to our roots in innovation and helping bring consumer technology manufacturing jobs back to the states,” Mark Randall, Motorola Mobility’s senior vice president of supply chain and operations, said in a statement. “Fact remains that more than 130 million people in the U.S. are using smartphones, but until Moto X, none of those smartphones have been built in the USA.”

The plant will be the only one fabricating Motorola products in the U.S., relying on the company’s design facility in Chicago, Randall said.

Flextronics, a huge Singapore-based electronics manufacturing firm, will operate the facility for Motorola at 5650 Alliance Gateway Freeway. The building, once occupied by the cellphone maker Nokia, is owned by Hillwood Properties.

David Berzina, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, said the annoucement is huge for Fort Worth, particularly the number of jobs. Flextronics likely selected Fort Worth for the quality of job candidates and quality of life the city has to offer, he said.

“Every city in the country wanted this deal,” Berzina said. “It’s a game-changer. It’s rare. It’s an enviable and daunting number. It’s terrific.”

Flextronics, founded in 1969 in Silicon Valley, designs, manufactures and provides logistics services for hundreds of companies, including Motorola, and is reported to be second in size behind Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., or Foxconn Electronics, which makes products in China for Apple.

In December, Flextronics acquired Motorola Mobility plants in China and Brazil. Google acquired Motorola Mobility, based in Libertyville, Ill., in August for $12.5 billion. Since then, several technology-based websites have speculated about a possible new X phone.

Technology companies have added manufacturing sites in the U.S., including Apple, which recently said it would build Macs in Austin. Motorola Mobility said Wednesday that manufacturing in the U.S. has several business advantages, including being closer to its designers and engineers in Illinois and California.

“We’ll be able to iterate on design much faster, create a leaner supply chain, respond much more quickly to purchasing trends and demands, and deliver devices to people much more quickly,” the company said.

Mike Berry, president of Hillwood Properties, said Motorola should operate successfully for many years at Alliance.

“Motorola Mobility’s selection of AllianceTexas as the site of its new manufacturing facility reinforces our position as one of the nation’s leading destinations for corporate site selection in manufacturing and logistics,” Berry said in a statement.

In January, Flextronics CEO Mike McNamara told The Wall Street Journal that smartphones would be made in the U.S. but that the return of cellphone manufacturing to the U.S. would be a “slow and evolving process.”

The Fort Worth facility most recently housed Q-Edge, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Foxconn, which had been in the building since 2009. It was built in 1995 as a manufacturing site for Nokia. But the Finnish company, which employed 3,800 people in Tarrant County at one point, shifted cellphone manufacturing to Mexico and Asia.

In April, the Star-Telegram reported that Flextronics had been issued building permits indicating that it would spend $3.3 million to renovate the 470,000-square-foot facility. Flextronics also posted hundreds of listings on online job sites. Last month, a job fair was held at a local hotel for an unnamed Fortune 500 firm that was seeking to start manufacturing here in the next couple of months.

“This announcement is just another example of how competitive Fort Worth remains in the global marketplace,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “Thanks to the facilities at Alliance, our business-friendly environment and our strong workforce, Fort Worth continues to expand its manufacturing base, creating thousand of new jobs.”

So far, Flextronics has hired only “200 to 300” workers, McNamara told the Star-Telegram. It will use job fairs and recruiters to help round up the rest in time to be trained, he said, stressing that the company is seeking employees for all levels, from assembly line workers to engineers and production managers.

He said Dallas-Fort Worth has a large enough labor pool to find prospective workers quickly.

Asked about wage levels, Flextronics spokeswoman Catherine Blades declined to cite specifics but said pay would be competitive.

Randall said Motorola believes that U.S. production will be “cost neutral” “in the long run,” citing aggressive wage inflation in China and the advantages of fabricating phones where the consumers are.

The proximity can make the supply chain leaner than if the work were done overseas, he said.

Staff writer Barry Shlachter contributed to this report.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

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